These two positions don't even seem close

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Mon Aug 28 03:45:51 EDT 2000

Dear Randall,

We have had many discussions regarding the meaning of the verbal categories
in Hebrew, and we disagree. The same is true with the Greek "tenses". We
should not rely on ad hominem arguments - what 90-99+(?) % of the teachers
believe. It is much better to argue on the basis of data rather than on the
basis of intuition.

Porter, Fanning, and Wallace have been mentioned in the discussion, but not
Mari Broman Olsen. The strength of her work, is that she uses a clearly
defined methodology and textual examples. When I read her book, my opinion
was that the aorist was a combination of past tense and the perfective
aspect. After using her methodology and working with the texts, I changed
my view to the point where I take the aorist to signal the perfective
aspect but not past tense.

My challenge to you and to others who appeal to intuition and the majority
view is: Read Mari's book, point out weaknesses in her methodology, and
give a linguistic explanation of her and Porter's examples of non-past



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>for Mark
>some encouragment.
>wayne leman egrapsen
>>Greek doesn't work this way. Its time markers indicate, instead, aspect of
>>the actions or states encoded by its verbs.
>>It would have been better if the label "tense" had never been used to
>>describe anything about Greek,
>"anything" was too wide.
>Before this unravels further, maybe a note about how 90-99+(?)% of Greek
>teachers see verbs. They distinguish the indicative verbs from the
>The indicative forms definitely include tense. You may call them tensed
>aspects if you like, but they are still tenses.
>Thus, the aorist indicative is basically a 'simple' past. (Or a PAST
>'simple aspect', if you will.)
>The imperfect is an 'in-process' past. (Or a PAST 'in process aspect', if
>you will.)
>Yet Wayne is quite right on the rest: infinitives, subjunctives,
>imperatives and participles would have been much clearer for most Greek
>students if they were always named by NON-time labels, e.g. "in-process"
>versus "simple". The aorist is the "simple" set (linguists call this
>'perfective') and the "in-process" (named 'imperfective' by linguists) is
>the so-called "present" set.
>So yes, it is true that the infinitves, subjectives, imperatives and to a
>large extent participles are truly marking PURE ASPECT and not time.
>But the indicative verbs are marking time.
>Again, that is the common consensus and there is no need for a student to
>be bothered by a very small minority who might tie themselves in knots
>trying to deny what Greek readers see plainly.
>In every field there have always been theorists who extrapolate principles
>beyond the boundaries where they are appropriate and produce something
>theoretically 'consistent', but wrong. (For every claimed 'paradigm shift'
>there are hundreds of well-meaning deadends.)  A classic example of this
>are some logical theories and linguistic semantic theories that produce
>statements that go 'against the grain', against the intuitive, common sense
>of the speakers. If semantic theorists can do that to English, a living
>language, qal veHomer someone might try it with the old Greek verb systems.
>Well, that's what Porter did, in the view of the extreme majority.
>Randall Buth

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